Fireworks Magazine Online 48 - Fergie Frederiksen


It’s been a long, long journey for Michigan born Denis “Fergie” Frederiksen. Another of the old guard of AOR that defies the aging process to come back again and again with a genuine talent, he’s a vocalist who has made a multitude of recordings of note, although to many he will always be the short lived (but exceptional) vocalist for Toto. Back with a solo album ‘Happiness Is The Road’ on Frontiers, Alan Holloway cornered Fergie to find out what keeps him going after all this time.

Naturally, I like to start with the big, important questions, so why are you called Fergie, and not Dennis?

When I was in grade school we used to play football in my neighbourhood. It was older kids and me. I would run and keep my legs moving so it was hard to tackle me. There was at that time a running back for the University of Michigan who was called “Crazy legs Ferguson.” They all knew my name was Frederiksen but the term Crazy legs Fergie stuck. I thought it was a girly name so I confronted a guy on the bus to school. Well, I got my ass kicked and figured Fergie as a name might not be so bad!

You’ve had a long, varied career. Where did it all start?

When I was 15 I started a band with my cousin Eddy. He was 13 and had a guitar and another friend of his played drums and someone else on bass. First band ever. It sounded like crap but you have to start sometime. Then I joined bands with older guys and was playing in bars at 16 years old. I received a scholarship for gymnastics to Central Michigan University but learned after one year that music is what I really wanted to do.

In the early 80s you adopted the pseudonym David London for the Village People soundtrack album ‘Can’t Stop The Music’ and a solo album. How did that all come about?

The David London phase was just that. I was new in LA and had a chance to audition for some singing gig. I didn’t know what it was for and just went to the audition. Turns out it was for the producer of the Village People. He had some songs for their movie, ‘Can’t Stop The Music’, and needed a pop singer. Well, I got the gig. It was great to be able to afford LA and get a start with some dough in my pocket. I released a solo David London record which did nothing, but it did help my first years in LA.

Not long after this you sang backing vocals on Survivor’s classic ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ album - right place at the right time?

Jim Peterik and I were friends from Chicago. Frankie Sullivan and I were in a band together in Chitown as well. They called and asked me if I was free and I had just signed to the French producer of the Village People so I was under contract. JP and Frankie came to LA where I brought them around to see some potential bands to hear a bass player and drummer. That trip they found Stephan and Mark. It was a great time for music.

It certainly was, and you followed it up with LeRoux, a band who seemed to have all the ingredients for AOR success, so what happened?

LeRoux was a part of big “house cleaning” at RCA records. They dropped a bunch of bands and we were unfortunately one of them.

You’ve popped up on dozens of albums over the years, is there a single one that you look back at most proudly?

I would have to say Toto. It was a bold move by the band and to this day I owe them a lot. Even though we parted in a bad way for me, I hold no bad feelings or regrets. Oh, I lied. I have regrets.

Such as?

My time with Toto was brief and a great experience for me. Like I said previously, I would have love to do one more but it wasn’t in the cards. I left because I wasn’t the right guy for the job. I was more of a hard rock singer and they saw the need to get back to more West Coast sound with some R&B mixed in. Not my cup of tea.

You’ve done a few co headliner albums with musicians such as Ricky Phillips and Tommy Denander. Do you hunt down the guy you want or are they people you come into contact with through your work and just gel with?

Tommy and Ricky are close friends. Ricky and I have been witting and golfing for 30 years or so. For him and I to do a CD seemed like the way to go. TD and I met in Sweden and have stayed in touch ever since. Both these guys are world class and my friends.

What made them collaborations, rather than Fergie Frederiksen solo albums?

I‘m a strong believer in doing things for a reason. The reason I didn’t label it just myself was that hey both deserved to be there. Ricky produced and co-wrote everything on Frederiksen/Philips and the same with TD. Why steal the thunder? I suppose I could have done a solo CD but it wasn’t the way it came about. We worked it together and had a blast alone the way.’

There are some very upbeat, energetic tracks on the new CD - do you prefer this to the more laid back, West Coast vibe?

I don‘t really look that far into things. I feel that their are audiophile nuts out there that will figure it out for me. Thank god for all the fans of Melodic Rock. See, there I go putting a label on it! I am just so thankful that there are people who enjoy our type of music still.

The West Coast label is one that’s been stuck to you because of the Toto connection, but you are more of a solid AOR man, I feel.

Ya, West Coast is another label that gets me confused. I see and hear what that means so I guess I am still in the day of rock that makes sense and also has a kick. I enjoy the heavier side of things. I like to feel the edge when I’m singing on stage and the studio. Good songs is all you need then put your spin on it and hopefully people like it.

Will you be gigging to promote the album?

I am working with TD on some dates in November. Nothing solid yet.

You were diagnosed with liver cancer last year, which you have thankfully recovered from. It must have been a hellish time for you.

This was not a total surprise for me. I had Hepatitis C and went through the treatment and am now clear of the virus. I also knew that Cancer was a side effect of Hepatitis C. I thought that someday it may happen but not so soon. I made the mistake of using drugs for a short time. I got caught up in the wrong crowd and shared with others. It will cost me everything eventually. So was I surprised? Yes and NO. When I found out the prognosis was not good, my mind set was pull yourself together. You knew it could happen, now be a man and fight like hell to beat it.’

Have you been given the all clear now?

I had 3 chemo embiolization operations. Pretty new and they slowed the cancer and the last one got all the cancer in my liver. I still have a huge problem. A clot in my vein they believe is cancer and they can’t get to it. So I’m a ticking time bomb. They can’t treat it so I’m just seeing how it goes and if there is any new procedures being invented. I’m betting on it. I’m all in, mate! Till then my liver is doing quite well. The side effects of the drug are the toughest thing but manageable. These pills and in concert with the operations, have worked great for me and so I‘ll ride it out and see how it goes. Keeping in mind that I’m not giving up, even if it seems like I should. The Lord God is driving the bus. Jesus and him will tell me when it’s my time to get off, till then I’ll keep kicking this thing’s ass and living life to the fullest. All the prayers and well wishes I received was and still is amazing. I really believe that this has made a difference. I am blessed and so grateful to everyone. The power of prayer is a real thing.’

Well we’re all glad you’re still with us! What is it above everything else that makes you determined to cling onto life so hard?

My kids, music, friends and loved ones is all you need to keep fighting.

And finally, is there a message you want to share with your many fans and our readers?

I would like to thank everyone for their support. I know it’s been too long between CD’s so I’m going to step it up a bit. I plan on touring and doing another CD as soon as possible. I am not out of the woods with this cancer but I have bought some time I plan to use wisely. You’re in my heart. I’ll try not to let anyone down!

This and more than 30 other interviews can be found in issue 48 of Fireworks Magazine, available from ...

• Participating WHSmith and McColls Group stores (see Store Finder for participating stockists)
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